South Korea has expressed its willingness to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral free-trade deal involving 12 countries, but the nation has set its sights on a free trade agreement (FTA) with China above all.

“China is South Korea’s number one trade partner, and there is no question that the talks will take priority this year,” said one Korean negotiator who asked not to be named, according to the Wall Street Journal.

South Korea’s economy is heavily dependent on its exports, and the nation would rather focus on the bilateral deal with China rather than spend its time on the complex and slow-paced TPP talks. The two countries have been in talks since 2012. The ninth round of negotiations recently ended (January 2014), with the next round slated for March 2014.

The Wall Street Journal states that officials believe a deal eliminating 90% of import tariffs between South Korea and China could boost South Korea’s economy by 3% over the next decade. HSBC economist Ronald Man predicts that a deal such as this would help South Korea’s automobile, textile and petrochemical sectors.

For more on South Korea’s trade talks, view the full article here.

Richard G. Kerlikowske was nominated by US President Barack Obama to be Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Kerlikowske is an Army veteran, former police chief and former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

“I am deeply honored that the President nominated me to lead CBP, the largest law enforcement organization in the United States,” said Kerlikowske. “With its border-related responsibilities, powerful legal authorities, and astounding human and technical resources, CBP is of paramount importance to the Nation’s national security and economic prosperity. As such, it is vitally important that the policies and conduct of the agency be transparent to the American people and Congress.”

According to an official statement from Kerlikowske at the Senate Finance Committee hearing on January 15, 2014, CBP enforces over 500 laws for 47 federal agencies, processes more than $2.3 trillion in international trade, and collects more than $40 billion annually in customs revenue.

If confirmed, Kerlikowske states that he plans to focus on the following objectives:

  • Continue investment in CBP’s Air and Marine operations in the Nation’s counterdrug mission
  • Continue to prioritize the completion of the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and International Trade Data System (ITDS)
  • Establish a modern, flexible, automated foundation for the efficient transmission of data to all US government agencies with a border nexus, ensuring the efficient entry and release of cargo
  • Modernize CBP export process in support of the President’s National Export Initiative to streamline exports and foster growth for US companies
  • Focus enforcement resources to protect domestic producers from unfair competition, ensure that national technologies and brand names are protected from threats, and to protect domestic consumers from unsafe, substandard products
  • Work with CBP to build and retain a world class, knowledge-based trade workforce to interact effectively with the public and the trade community to insure the physical and economic security of the nation.
  • Continue CBP efforts to transform its business processes, eliminating paperwork, expanding enrollment in trusted traveler programs and deploying technology to minimize wait times at ports of entry
  • Continue use of information integration and rapid response to meet all threats between ports of entry

You can read Kerlikowske’s full statement made at the confirmation hearings here.

At the end of 2013, Canada’s Committee on Internal Trade (CIT) met to deliberate on its internal barriers to trade which are costing the Canadian economy an estimated $50-billion each year. Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, tells the Globe and Mail that, “discriminatory hiring practices which favour local labour, minor differences in licensing requirements and standardization” are stunting growth for Canada’s provinces.  He continued on to say, “it’s sobering to think of a future where its’ easier for Ontario to trade with Europe or India than for Alberta to trade with Quebec.” In the last 18 years, provisional measures have been taken in the form of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) which allows workers to move between provinces among other advances. Instead of viewing the AIT as a platform for growth toward free trade, Canadians have seemingly accepted it as the “best available option.”

Beatty is not willing to accept the AIT as the final deal for trade between the provinces. “The AIT has been a useful tool but it’s time to take off the training wheels. Canada needs a new, more ambitious, agreement on internal trade.”

For more on Canada’s progress on internal trade, view the full article on The Globe and Mail.